A masterclass in songwriting. But will the real Anna Laube step forward?
You can always identify real quality in song-writing. Some people just seem to have the right, deft touch to craft beautiful songs across a range of styles. Anna Elizabeth Laube is one of these master crafters of song. Listen to ‘All My Runnin’’, a half-spoken lyric linked to gently picked acoustic guitar and adorned with a plaintive steel guitar. It is gorgeous, especially where the slide guitar takes centre stage before dropping back behind those breathy, half-whispered vocals.
The styles shift constantly on this album. But it is a compilation of Laube’s best tracks from her previous four solo albums. Next up is the country blues of ‘If You Build It’ which replaces those whispered vocals with a more in your face Iris Dement style mountain blues approach. The tempo shifts again with the upbeat folk-pop drive of ‘Oh My! (Oh Me Oh Me Oh My)’. Another masterclass in song-writing.
Then another style shift into the fantastic ‘Jardim da Estrela’, an accordion-driven song influenced by her time in Lisbon. By now you may be wondering how this album has only achieved an average rating. The simple answer is that, despite being a stunningly gifted song-writer, the album leaves you with a bit of a question about who exactly Laube is.
After quitting a career in tech in San Francisco to follow her musical muse she has spent the last decade and a half nomadically playing across the US, selling albums at shows and writing and recording on her mobile studio with pick-up session players along the way. Her songs cover a pretty broad palette around a basic folk-Americana core. The result is intimate and impassioned and, in the best spirit of the term, folksy.
But what describes the real heart of Laube? The kooky Californian folk-pop of ‘Hippie Boyfriend’ or the distorted garage rock of ‘I’m Gone’? Or maybe soul-blues of ‘Beautiful Boy’?
The album ends with the evocative country-folk ballad of ‘Tree’. It is a tour de force of songwriting. I may not really know Anna Elizabeth Laube from this collection. But I know a beautiful, tender and poetic song when I hear it.